Monday, 5 December 2011

Rigatoni with Crown Prince Squash, Cavolo Nero & Red Chilli

There's one thing I know for sure - pasta consumption in our house has rocketed since we started getting an organic veg bag again. 

Picture's 7.30pm on a week night, the baby has just gone to bed, the fridge is full of the random assortment of vegetables that you can only have when someone else is choosing your veg each week, your tummy is rumbling and you want to curl up on the sofa, sharpish.  What you need is a hearty bowl of pasta that's ready in no time and leaves you feeling (relatively) virtuous.

I think my love of the combination of kale and squash is probably inspired by Denis Cotter.  He cooks the sort of good (vegetarian) food that I want to eat every day.  Food that is a far cry from the apparently mandatory mushroom risotto or pasta served up as the meat-free option in many restaurants and pubs.

You don't need to use crown prince squash - any squash will do - I just happen to like the rounded, buttery flavour of the crown prince.  Butternut squash would be a more than adequate replacement.  The same goes for the cavolo nero (black kale).  Although cavolo nero tastes best, you could use the more widely available curly kale or any other dark green leafy vegetable.


150-200g rigatoni (depending on how hungry you are)
1/4 crown prince squash (or 1/2 a large butternut squash)
1 leek
10-15 large cavolo nero leaves
1 red chilli (finely sliced)
3 garlic cloves (finely sliced)
2 tbsp olive oil plus 1 tbsp to roast the squash
salt & freshly ground black pepper
freshly grated pecorino or parmesan


Peel and deseed the squash.  Cut into 1 inch cubes.  Season the squash with salt and pepper and toss in 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Roast in a medium oven (approx 180 C depending on your oven) for approximately 20 minutes until tender and beginning to caramelise at the edges.  You will need to check on the squash a couple of times and toss to ensure it roasts evenly.

Discard the outer layer (or layers) of the leek and then slice in half lengthways.  Slice the leek into thin semicircles and wash thoroughly.  Wash the cavolo nero, discard any thick stalks and slice the leaves into strips about 1cm wide.

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil.  Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions.

Heat a wide based saute pan over a medium heat.  Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and then the leeks.  Saute, stirring frequently, for 4 minutes and then add the cavolo nero.  Continue to saute until the leeks and kale are tender.  Lower the heat, add the red chilli and garlic and continue to saute for a couple of minutes. 

The pasta and squash should now be ready.  Drain the pasta, reserving the cooking water.  Add the squash, drained pasta and 3-4 tablespoons of the cooking water to the leeks and cavolo nero, then season generously. 

Serve with plenty grated cheese.

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